Writing In The Tension Into Your Story Interview with Author Mark Del Franco

I talked to Mark Del Franco about how he builds tension and suspense.  According to his website, “Mark Del Franco spent several years in the publishing field in editorial and administrative roles and in the institutional finance field as a proposal writer. He currently is pursuing a freelance career in both these fields.”


“Mark Del Franco lives with his partner, Jack, in Boston, Massachusetts, where the orchids tremble in fear since he killed Jack’s palm plants.”

What his website bio doesn’t say is that Mark is an amazing guy and masterful at first-person suspense.

So, Mark, what do you do to build tension in a scene?

I find tension one of the harder aspects of writing because I know what’s going to happen.  Sometimes the execution surprises me—the  scene I envision does not always result in the scene that gets written—but the bottom-line is that it’s not tense for me in the same way it is for a reader.  So what do I do?  I try and be a reader as I write.  The crucial point of tension is something has to be at stake that the reader cares about or at least believes the characters care about.  For me, that means setting a scene first–the visuals and why it’s important.  Then I layer in the idea of the success or failure being equally important—it’s not tension if the result is not in doubt.  Last, the pay-off has to work credibly–if something resolves successfully, the reader must feel that I haven’t cheated to get there (for example, “Poof! she waved her magic scepter”) and if something resolves tragically, the reader must not feel I stacked the odds to an impossible height to make a plot point (for example, “everyone died,  but now he had a reason for revenge”).  These three things overlap, but they do happen for me in roughly this order.

Is it a “big bang shock” sort of technique for you or you more fond of the “take the reader down the dark and sinister hallway” approach?

I like both!  Both techniques have their uses and achieve different goals.  I think the big bang is an after-effect technique.  The Bad Thing happens, and the tension derives from how characters have to deal with it.  The dark hallway is more front-loaded—we know something is coming, so the goal is to face it and the tension derives from whether
the characters can prevent the Bad Thing.  Both techniques, I think, are a test of character (in both senses of the word) that should make a reader care about what happens.

Do you think that it\’s easier to build tension in first or third person? And either way, as a reader (not as a writer) which do you prefer?

As a writer, I’ve been focusing on first person to date so I’m more comfortable with first (though a new novel I’m working on is in third). With first person, I have an easier time slipping behind my protagonists eyes and trying to imagine what would make things tense for me, then translating that to the page.  I think this gives the reader a certain
immediacy to the tension, too.  Third person is a broader kind of tension in that I’m trying to make things tense for the reader and the character in slightly different ways while telling one narrative.  Right now, as I learn my way through third person writing (and every novel is a new learning experience), I’m feeling that third person makes a higher
demand for ensuring the setting tension is strong because the viewpoint is broader.  As a reader, I respond more to first person tension.  With third person tension, for some reason I tend to notice more the way scenes are crafted to create tension, but that may be due to the fact that third person has not been my main writing point of view so far.

If you think of suspense coming in different sizes (small, medium, super-ultra large) do you think it\’s best to alternate these or are you into the steady diet of massive (or tiny) suspenses in your book.

In a way, this is a broader issue of pacing and making decisions as a writer as to the type of book you want to write.  My Connor Grey series tends to medium hits of tension that grow larger over the course of the novel until I hit the big one.  That’s the pay off for myself and the reader—laying out a series of events that become more and more
perilous until Connor must make the big decision on how to act.  With my new novel set in the Convergent World, I’m looking to create a faster pace–I want my main character, Laura, to be put through her paces and prove she’s as good as everyone thinks she is.  So, I end up throwing a lot at her.  That increases the pacing and the way to do that is those
steady hits of tension.

When you write do you think the nature of  your suspense comes from your characters or from the plot?

As an urban fantasy writer that has focused on mystery, I hope the tension is in the plot!  At the same time, I think (and hope) that there’s a level of character tension too since my main character learned he has feet of clay and is struggling to overcome that.  How he becomes a better person–making mistakes along the way.


My little novella (It’s spare. It’s sad) is out and it’s just $1,99. It is a book of my heart and I am so worried about it, honestly.

There’s a bit more about it here.

Want To Learn About Me, My Writing Coach Business, Editing or Just Hook Up on Social Media?




Email us at carriejonesbooks@gmail.com


Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 

Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 263,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.

And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones


Jokes, Stuffies, And Using Your Weirdness for Good, An Interview with Jose De La Roca

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Jokes, Stuffies, And Using Your Weirdness for Good, An Interview with Jose De La Roca

Hey! Welcome to a bonus interview episode of Dogs are Smarter Than People, the usually quirky podcast that gives writing tips and life tips. I’m Carrie Jones and with me today is podcaster, actor and definitely a writer, the amazing Jose De La Roca.


Jose has more than 17 years of radio broadcasting experience and now he shares with you all the secrets he knows about podcasting. 

Jose say he is a dad first, talking monkey second, and a writer. He wrote a great book called How to be a Dad without a Dad and he’s worked for radio stations and streaming apps and I’m a little intimidated.

His YouTube Channel has a lot of stuffies and he’s in charge of Dad without a Dad Productions. He’s super cool, super smart, and super fun.

Jose of awesome!

Why are teddy bears never hungry? Because they are always stuffed. 


We talk about imposter syndrome, being a doer, the state of the radio industry and using humor as a coping mechanism.

According to the IRS, I’m an actor, voice-over actor, sound engineer and a writer, but all I want to do is provide a better future for my son. 


You should definitely check out the interview and Jose’s links.

Jose on YouTube where he is hysterical.

Jose on Instagram where his pictures are stunning.

Jose on Twitter, which is where I met him. Score!

Link to Jose’s interview.


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


This week’s episode link. 

Last week’s episode link 

A bonus interview with Dr. J.L. Delozier, Pennsylvania doctor and writer. 

bonus interview with poet and coach Fiona Mackintosh Cameron. 


I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should. 

And if you click through to this link, you can read the first chapter! 

And click here to learn about the book’s inspiration and what I learned about myself when I was writing it.


My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!


It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Being a Pennsylvania Doctor, Writer and Disaster Specialist During Coronavirus – BONUS INTERVIEW WITH J.L. DELOZIER

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Being a Pennsylvania Doctor, Writer and Disaster Specialist During Coronavirus - BONUS INTERVIEW WITH J.L. DELOZIER

With Carrie today is Dr. J.L Delozier who has the afternoon off and instead of resting, she was talking to us.

J.L. Delozier submitted her first story, handwritten in pencil on lined school paper, to Asimov’s magazine while still in junior high school. Several years later, she took a creative writing elective at Penn State University and was hooked. Thriller writer, physician, and cookie addict, we were so glad that she didn’t rest and spent some time with us.  

How cool is she?

Dr. Delozier’s first thriller, Type & Cross, debuted in April, 2016 and was nominated for a “Best First Novel” award by the International Thriller Writers

Type & Cross, is about a virus that starts in China and kills half the world’s population.

If you listen to the podcast, you’ll find out that Dr. Delozier has the writing chops and the medical knowledge to write that book. She worked for the federal government about disaster preparedness and now she’s working at a Pennsylvania hospital dealing with Covid-19 and trying to lift the spirits of both her patients and the staff.

Listen, and you’ll realize that you might want to move to Pennsylvania and have her be your doctor, too.

Here are some places to find out more about J.L.

Her website.

Her Twitter.

And here’s a link to her newest book, CON ME ONCE. It’s pretty amazing just like her.


The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

This week’s episode link. 

Last week’s interview with writer Jordan Scavone!

My newest adult novel.

A.S. King is Awesome – Throwback Interview

I love A. S. King. She is brilliant, raw, authentic, and an all-around bad ass when it comes to championing people and moments and writing. I found an interview I had with her back in 2010! That makes me so old, right? But she is too brilliant-adorable for me not to repost it.

Here Goes.

You are now Entering a Time Machine Where A.S. King‘s Second Novel is Coming Out and Hasn’t Yet Become a 2011 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book and an Edgar Allan Poe Award nominee for “Best Young Adult Novel.”

Today I am hosting my super awesome friend/writer A.S. King. Here she is in all her awesome pizza-knowledge glory!!! YAY!! I am in BOLD. Amy is not.

Ding dong. Pizza delivery. I’ve got a mushroom, onion and black olive here ...

First, I want to thank you, Carrie Jones (CARRIE JONES!!) for kicking off this blog tour with me. Thank you! It’s hard to think up fun stuff when promoting a book, but Please Ignore Vera Dietz, which comes out TOMORROW, gave me this great idea because Vera Dietz delivers pizzas in the book and I was once a pizza delivery technician too, and so, I’ve decided to go back to my former life for a few months and deliver some cool people some [metaphorical] pizzas.  

Could you please post an embarrassing picture of yourself and explain. it. Please tell me Amy is this picture of embarrassingness typical for you?

I know this looks like a picture of a filthy little boy. But really, this is a picture of me after my first two-week session at summer camp. I can pretty much guarantee you that I hadn’t really bathed in fourteen days, or if I did, I didn’t do a very good job of it. I believe this was the same year as the t-shirt I loved so much I wore it every single day. Also, the year I had a half-eaten apple in my trunk so that when I got home and my mom unpacked it, there were ants EVERYWHERE.

I know I was supposed to post an embarrassing picture, and in ways this is embarrassing, but it’s also kinda cool. Because I loved summer camp and this picture captures what I loved about it. Getting dirty. Soot. Minimal attention to hygiene.

To answer your question–actually, yes. For a little while there on the farm in Ireland, in the months before we got a bathtub or shower, this was pretty typical for me.

You look brilliant and adorable and way cooler than I ever was. So here is question #2: Has anyone ever come to the door dressed in bubble wrap when you delivered a pizza?

No bubble wrap. But I have been greeted by half-naked people, people too drunk to count money, a guy in a Grim Reaper Halloween costume and my favorite, the guy with the gunóno. He wasn’t robbing me. He was just cleaning it, I think. Freaked me out completely. (I was actually robbed at gunpoint a few years later and I think this episode probably had something to do with how I didn’t really take that really-robbing-me guy seriously until he got right up to me and pointed it at my head.) (Don’t worry. I was fine. He got away with about $40. He was wearing nice green slacks. I moved to Ireland where guns are illegal. All worked out.)

3. AMY!!!!! That is so not cool. I’m glad about Ireland though, but that is so not cool! Let’s ask something mellow: What is your least favorite color crayon and why?

Wow. I never thought about this. I mean, I can tell you my #1 favorite color crayon. Periwinkle blue. But least favorite? Hmm. Let me have a look.

[Three weeks pass as Amy goes on a valiant quest to find her least favorite color crayon. During this time she is amazed at how many crayon colors she really loves. Like silver. How cool is silver? Or those cool neon ones they have now? Not a huge fan of the sparkly ones, but the neon ones totally make up for that.] 

Answer: Tumbleweed, hands down. First off, it’s the color of dog poop. Or that dull flesh-colored spandex they use in circus costumes to give the illusion of nudity. Or a beige bra if washed with a load of darks. Sorry Tumbleweed. Nothing personal. You’re just not my thing, man.

Thank you so much for being here and answering three dorky questions, Amy. You’re the best. And your book is, too.

Before I go, I should really tell you a little about my book, shouldnít I?

Cough. Yes! Cough.

PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ is a Junior Library Guild selection for Fall 2010!!

18-year-old Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything. So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone. Will she emerge and clear his name? Does she even want to? 

“Brilliant. Funny. Really special.” –Ellen Hopkins, author of NYT bestselling Crank, Glass and Tricks 

Thank you so much Carrie, for having me over to you blog! I hope you enjoy your pizza and the book! You rock! 

Nope. Amy. You rock. Always have. Always will. Especially when covered with 14-days worth of dirt.



Steve Wedel and I wrote a super creepy book a few years back called After Obsession and it’s making a big freaking splash in the amazing Netherlands thanks to Dutch Venture Publishing and its leader Jen Minkman. 

Check out this spread in a Dutch magazine. I met a whole bunch of Dutch readers last Friday and let me tell you? They are the best. 

Learn With Me at the Writing Barn!

The Write. Submit. Support. format is designed to embrace all aspects of the literary life. This six-month course will offer structure and support not only to our writing lives but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors. We will discuss passes that come in, submissions requests, feedback we aren’t sure about, where we are feeling directed to go in our writing lives, and more. Learn more here!

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”


My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!


It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 


You can get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 


A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

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